Have you been watching Parenthood? Well, maybe you should. Oh, I'm not one to say that you definitely should, you know me, I try to not be pushy or overly vehement in the stating of my ideas at all, I'm just throwing it out there as a choice.
Right now, the world seems terribly uninterested in watching the series, last night it got a 4.5/8 in the ratings (but won the demo with a 2.7). Those numbers aren't particularly impressive especially when you consider its competition – a repeat of The Good Wife, which beat Parenthood, and a V clip show on ABC. Put another way, Parenthood was the only thing new on in the 10pm hour last night and it still didn't win. We're not counting the 6 minute overrun of Lost as new, though hypothetically it could be argued that the overrun hurt Parenthood, especially as the series did better than it did last week… but last week it faced a new episode of The Good Wife.
The thing about the show's not being successful is that it makes me sad. Fine, call me foolish, call me ridiculous about being sad at the poor performance of a TV show. The thing is that I think the show is actually a good one, and not the first good show that NBC has aired over the past few years that hasn't garnered an audience. I'm not saying that you'll like the show, but perhaps, just perhaps, you ought to tune in and give it a shot.
Look, let's start at the top – it has a great cast, and all of whom give good performances. It has Peter Krause, Monica Potter, Erika Christensen, Dax Shepard, Lauren Graham, Craig T. Nelson, and Bonnie Bedelia. That's really a pretty solid ensemble cast – it has funny people, it has serious people, it has people who do both funny and serious, and it also has John McClane's wife (we don't accept Live Free or Die Hard as a part of the canon).
Then, it has these funny and serious actors doing what they do best – being both funny and serious. The show manages a really good balance between more dramatic, distressing, elements and funnier lighter fare. But, I think it does better than just manage a good overall balance as some shows do, it manages a good balance for each character. There are series out there who do funny and serious but almost always hand the serious plots to one or two characters and the funny to one or two others (I'm looking at you Desperate Housewives), Parenthood manages to do it for each character. That really, I believe, goes back to the cast – they have a cast that can handle those changes and make them all believable, and I think it's believability that's the key.
Parenthood isn't easy – ask anyone who is a parent, even if you're blessed with the easiest, happiest, smartest, cutest, etc., etc., child ever, parenthood isn't easy. It's filled with moments of great triumph and moments of great tragedy, and those moments can easily occur in the same day. As a series, Parenthood captures that, and they do so not in just one storyline, but almost entirely across the board.
I'd like to see Lauren Graham do a little more of the serious side (the Gilmore Girls vet is clearly capable of it), but she's gotten some moments in these first few episodes and has turned a role that wasn't hers originally into something very definitely Lauren Graham. Though it was Maura Tierney's part when the pilot was first filmed (and I have no desire to enter into a discussion of who may have been better in the role), Graham has made it hers and I can't imagine anyone else in it. Some of the credit there assuredly goes to the producers for – presumably – reworking bits and pieces to fit Graham, but it's a great role and all Graham's.
As a parent there are definitely moments of the series that aren't easy to watch – particularly Graham's troubles with her daughter and Adam (Krause) and Kristina (Potter) troubles coming to terms with – their child's Asperger's Syndrome. Yet, as a difficult as it may be to watch, they manage to deal with the diagnosis and its ramifications in a way that is true-to-life and compelling on television. That's a tough thing to accomplish, and if Parenthood can manage that with the one storyline they can manage so much more and I'm rooting for them to get the chance to do just that.